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Unregulated trust and estate sector leaves clients vulnerable

The catastrophic results that can occur when individuals consult unregulated company’s for advice regarding their assets has been highlighted by the demise of Universal Wealth Preservation Trust.

The Ipswich based company advised clients about wills, lasting power of attorney and trusts.

Unfortunately, the trust and estate sector is not subject to regulation in England and Wales which means that non solicitors, such as Universal Wealth Preservation, who were unregulated, are allowed to provide advice and act as executors.

When Universal Wealth Preservation went into compulsory liquidation last year, as much as £25million of their client’s money is thought to have gone missing.

Clients had been enticed by claims that the company could protect their heir’s inheritance from being swallowed up by care home fees and the tax man.

Instead, 27 families are now pursuing damage claims as the company’s offices stand closed, emails and telephone calls remain unanswered and the website is no longer active.

The company was run by Steven Long. In December last year Mr Long was sentenced to 8 months in prison for contempt of court as he had failed to comply with 29 various court orders to disclose the whereabouts of clients’ assets.

Although Mr Long’s activities are the subject of a criminal investigation, given his refusal to cooperate there is a very real prospect that clients will be never be able to retrieve their original documents or recover cash assets.

Katy Burgin, specialist wills and probate solicitor, comments: “Anyone needing help with any aspect of trusts, wills, lasting power of attorney or estate administration should be cautious about whom they take advice from.

As a measure of reassurance, all solicitor firms have compulsory indemnity insurance and are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, who will ensure that in the unlikely event of any failure by the firm, they will never be left out of pocket of suffer a detriment as a result of poor service they have received. “